Fran Healy – Wreckorder
As the frontman for Scottish Britpop band Travis, Fran Healy has never shied away from the simple, straight-ahead pop song. When he sulked, he never despaired like Thom Yorke; when he swaggered, he never was as brash as Liam Gallagher. Even if all this made him and his music less distinctive, it also gave Healy a charming, everyman quality that made Travis more successful and influential than many of its peers. Though Travis’ commercial and critical success have waned a bit over the past few years, Healy’s 2010 solo debut, Wreckorder, doesn’t try much that he hasn’t already done with his band. The album veers closer to the darker shades in Travis’ catalog—the songs are more “Re-Offender” and less “Sing”—but it never really gets any more languid or introspective than the band’s work. In fact, the album is at its most pop-oriented when the songs strongly resemble Travis. “Fly In The Ointment” and “Holiday” sound like sub-Invisible Band tracks, but the sweet “Anything” fares much better. Where Wreckorder is most compelling, though, is when Healy takes a few chances. His duet with Neko Case on the dreamy “Sing Me To Sleep” is a standout, successfully pushing his melodic skills into a more atmospheric setting. The slinky tango of “As It Comes,” featuring none other than Paul McCartney on bass, also hints at Healy’s songwriting maturation. And if there is one thing that he is trying to make clear, it is that he has matured. It’s in everything from his salt and pepper facial hair that adorns the cover to “Rocking Chair”‘s ruminations on morality. At times, he pulls it off. But considering that he shows the most depth, nuance and, yes, maturity when he takes a few risks, Healy doesn’t achieve what he wants to because Wreckorder plays it safe too often. Still, the best moments on this album fight against this tendency and suggest that his songwriting ability will continue to branch out. Those looking for something new from the man may be a tad disappointed, but there is still enough good music on Wreckorder to satisfy fans waiting for the next Travis album.